Keep Your Identity Safe During Tax Season
Tax season has arrived and many consumers are preparing to file their returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In addition to preparing returns carefully, taxpayers should be aware of scams using the IRS name and logo to gain access to personal or financial information that can be used to commit identity theft and/or steal assets. These scams frequently utilize phishing, a tactic where an email or website entices consumers to provide detailed personal or financial information, such as the consumer’s name, Social Security number or date of birth. Identity theft occurs when scammers use this information to empty bank accounts, use credit cards or obtain credit in the consumer’s name.
Things to Remember
The only genuine IRS website is www.irs.gov.
The IRS does not contact consumers by email to request detailed personal financial information.
The IRS will never ask for your Personal Identification Number (PIN) or passwords for credit cards or other financial accounts.
A tax refund can only be obtained through filing your tax return.
In the past, scammers have used form numbers that resemble legitimate IRS forms, text from the IRS website, the IRS logo and/or the names of actual IRS employees and organizations. Several scams claimed that the recipient was either eligible for a refund or was under investigation. In one version of the scam, emails contained attachments or links that downloaded a virus onto the recipient’s computer. The virus allowed scammers to extract personal or financial information from the computer that allowed scammers to access personal accounts. Taxpayers who receive suspicious emails can forward them to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org. The IRS is able to use the information in the email to trace the company hosting the email account and alert authorities to shut down the scam.
For suspicious letters or notices received in the mail, contact the IRS to determine if the letter is legitimate. If you receive a suspicious phone call, request the caller’s phone number and employee badge number. Visit www.irs.gov/contact to locate the phone number of your local IRS office or call 800-829-1040 to find out if the caller is a legitimate IRS employee. If the letter, phone call or email is not legitimate, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 or at www.treasury.gov/tigta.
Refund Anticipation Loans (RALS)
RALs are short-term bank loans (usually one to two weeks) that are secured by a taxpayer’s anticipated tax refund from the IRS. While not a scam, RALs are expensive, costing anywhere from 50 percent to over 500 percent APR depending on the amount of the loan. In 2010, about 6.85 million consumers applied for a RAL for their 2009 refund. Currently there are few lenders who still offer RALs, but it appears some non-bank lenders may intend to offer RALs in the future. Fortunately, there are lower cost or free ways for taxpayers to get their refunds quickly.
- A taxpayer who e-files and has a bank account will typically receive their refund in eight to 15 days.
- Taxpayers without a bank account can e-file and have the refund placed on a prepaid card.
- Low to moderate income taxpayers or individuals age 60 or over can visit a VITA/TCE site and receive free tax preparation assistance. Call 800-906-9887 to locate the nearest VITA/TCE site.
For additional information, contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at www.800helpfla.com or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) within Florida, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español or (850) 410-3800 from outside of Florida.